Page last updated at 08:08 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 09:08 UK

Indonesian crash pilot on trial

The wreckage of a Garuda airliner (07/03/07)
The blaze took two hours to put out and gutted the jet

The pilot of an Indonesian plane that crashed at an airport on Java island last year, killing 21 people, has gone on trial accused of negligence.

A report into the crash at Yogyakarta concluded that he had been flying too fast and landed at too steep an angle.

Marwoto Komar's defence team said they will fight the charges on the grounds that he managed to land the plane on the runway, probably saving lives.

The Boeing 737 skidded off the runway and burst into flames on 7 March 2007.

The most serious charge accuses Mr Komar of causing death by deliberately destroying the plane - an accusation his lawyer described as "ridiculous".

Foreign visitors

A report last year by Indonesia's National Transport Safety Committee found that Mr Komar ignored 15 warning signals from inside the cockpit, and also pleas from his co-pilot to abort the landing and take the approach again.

The terms of the report mean it cannot be used as direct evidence in the case, but prosecutors are expected to focus on Mr Komar's actions during those critical moments before landing.

Many of those on board the Garuda airliner were journalists, diplomats and officials accompanying Australian then-Foreign Minister Alexander Downer on a visit to the city. The minister was travelling on a separate plane.

Five Australians were among the dead.


The aftermath of the fatal crash

Mr Komar could face a life sentence if he is convicted. The trial is expected to last several months.

Indonesia relies on air travel to connect its many islands, but old planes and inadequate investment mean the country has one of the worst aviation safety records in the world.

Last year the European Union issued a ban on all Indonesian carriers after a string of incidents - one of which was the Yogyakarta crash.

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